As we assembled this week’s paper, it struck us how integral Litchfield’s schools are to the success of this community and beyond.

One package, on Page A2, details the lives and contributions of Litchfield High School graduates who went on to do big things locally and nationally, and next week will be inducted in the LHS Hall of Fame.

Another story this week details the work of a more recent graduate, who took the education she received in Litchfield schools and parlayed it into a trip to outer space, sort of. She was part of a team that built a satellite, which NASA will launch into space next week, that is designed to better detect solar flares and to improve GPS.

These success stories and many others are important to remember as Litchfield School District voters head to the polls Tuesday. Developing students who can make a difference in the world does not come without an investment in their education. Through the years, residents have supported Litchfield School District as it turned out those hall-of-famers and thousands of other students.

Next week, voters will decide on three questions that could provide more funding for educational programs as well as improved facilities.

We encourage a “yes” vote on all three questions. Approval of the three questions will help keep students, the school district and the community as a whole competitive.

Yes, there’s a cost to taxpayers for saying “yes.” But rather than view it that way, we think it’s more accurately seen as an investment that will pay dividends.

The first referendum question will provide an excess levy, additional funding — $625 per pupil unit — for teachers and programs. It’s a simple matter of playing catch-up, really. The district is currently nearly $500 below the state average in per pupil funding.

If approved, the excess levy will put Litchfield Public Schools about $50 above the state average. We should want better than average for our students.

Without approval of the excess levy, Litchfield School Board has said it will be forced to look at cost reductions, with marching band, athletics and other programs at risk.

Questions 2 and 3 on Tuesday’s ballot deal with building improvements. Question 2 would provide $33.785 million sorely needed to remodel Lake Ripley Elementary School, as well as upgrade classrooms at the middle and high schools.

Lake Ripley improvements would help the school meet Americans with Disability Act requirements, as well as create a multi-purpose lunchroom and provide additional space for special education programs.

Multiple middle and high school classrooms, including science, art, family and consumer science, and industrial tech, could be reconfigured to better serve students and provide more up-to-date, hands-on learning.

Finally, Question 3 will provide $11.43 million for construction of an eight-lane pool, remodel to provide a larger fitness space, and create a soccer field.

We’ve heard the argument that a new pool and fitness space are simply extras. We disagree. The current five-lane pool does a disservice, not just to students on the swimming and diving teams, but to children and adults who use the pool for swimming lessons, fitness classes and exercise. It has served the district and its students well for a long time, but it should have been replaced with a more modern, functional pool long ago.

The schools really are the heart of our community, as Mayor Keith Johnson wrote in a letter to the editor last week.

Our community needs a healthy heart, and it’s time to invest in that financial wellness program by voting “yes” to all three questions in next week’s referendum.

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